In October 2019, Pizza Inn parent RAVE Restaurant Group hired Brandon Solano to trigger a turnaround effort.
But the effort has been challenged greatly by a global pandemic that has ravaged the industry, and buffets have been one of the main victims.
In Pizza Inn’s fiscal year, which ended June 28, domestic comp sales dropped by $7.2 million, or 8.8 percent. The chain ended the period with 151 stores in the U.S. after closing a net of four. Internationally, the brand ended the fiscal year with 38 units after a net closure of 10 stores.
RAVE attributed the domestic closures to modest declines in its buffet and delivery/carryout units, partially offset by growth in Pizza Inn Express locations. The drop in international stores was due to closures of underperforming stores in the Middle East, offset by new units in the region. The brand said the shutterings represent “a stabilizing of international unit count.”
Pie Five saw same-store sales decrease by $4.2 million, or 15.7 percent. The company ended the year with 42 units after a net closure of 16 restaurants. RAVE said in a filing that the decrease was primarily due to the shuttering of poor-performing locations. The brand continued by saying the shut downs give them a “stronger foundation for future brand growth. We believe that this trend of net store closures will moderate and then reverse in future periods.”
Total revenue in the fiscal year slid 18.6 percent to $10 million.
To ensure the health and safety of customers and employees amid the pandemic, Pizza Inn introduced its Right-Way Buffet this spring. As part of the new format, foot traffic is directed one way to adhere to social distancing guidelines, and each buffet has a dedicated sanitizer captain to uphold cleaning standards. At some units, buffets have switched to a cafeteria style.
RAVE said it expects buffet and Pie Five units to remain under capacity restrictions for an undetermined amount of time. It also warns that an outbreak or perceived outbreak of COVID connected to restaurant dining “could cause negative publicity directed at any of our brands and cause customers to avoid our restaurants.”
Ultimately, RAVE acknowledged that the future is unclear.
“We cannot predict how long the pandemic will last or whether it will reoccur, what additional restrictions may be enacted, to what extent offpremises dining will continue, or if individuals will be comfortable returning to our Buffet Units and Pie Five Units following social distancing protocols,” the company said in the filing. “Any of these changes could materially adversely affect the Company’s future financial performance.”